Ghanaian journalist Peggy Ama Donkor is considered one of the most astute and hardworking journalists in this country. No wonder she was adjudged the Best Journalist in 2006/2007 for her commitment to fine reportage. She was, among others, awarded a scholarship to add colour to her journalism studies in Cardiff, Wales.

She is physically challenged but did brilliant stories for the public broadcaster, GBC, that most of her able bodied colleagues wouldn’t have thought of doing. As she narrated in a BBC documentary, most of the stories were done with her own finances. Her story is no different from physically challenged persons in this country working in several departments in this country. Some of them are competent lawyers, accountants, lecturers, artists and many more.

For some people, the likes of Peggy are what they currently are because of the work of spiritual forces or a family member’s sins were visited on them directly. Yet, what the person fails to say is that how come she’s afflicted with a disease by a spiritual force and the same spiritual force saw her mature into adulthood to the point that she’ll become the best journalist and all. How come the spiritual force did not kill her and her likes but allowed them to grow and become mature persons whose simple deeds are affecting lives positively in their various departments?

The ingrained perception by some that disability is caused by witches or a direct punishment for the wrongful behaviour of a family relative has led to the expulson of most disabled persons from their homes, forcing them to beg for their daily bread on the streets or any place they find appropriate. However on-going campaigns have been stepped up by various bodies and governments to ensure that persons living with disability are as competent as the able bodied ones.

At a recent launch of a simplifed version of a book on the disability rights law in Ghana, Canadian High Commissioner to Ghana Darren Schemmer said it’s important for people to appreciate that persons with disability are as normal as those without it. He said a person with disability has the rights, responsibilities and privileges as any other human being.

Mr. Schemmer said attitudes towards people with disability, globally, have been as a result of ignorance, stigmatization and fear.

“Persons with disabilities are routinely shunned from full participation in society, often ridiculed and denied access to the same facilities as others,” he mentioned. “They are often viewed as lesser human beings without the capacity to function and contribute effectively in the world.”

He said in most African countries, it’s easy for people to attribute disability to the spiritual possession of the individual, as punishment of a family member or the work of witchcraft. He however said the situation is somewhat beginning to change for the better.

“The blind, deaf, physically disabled and those with Downs Syndrome or other mentally challenging conditions are members of society whose needs and wants are only now being recognised throughout the world.”

Darren Schemmer said this culture of blame cuts across many countries. Parents, he mentioned, out of ignorance of their children’s condition, could be driven to neglect them, often as a result of stigmatization by the local community. He however said Ghana has taken a giant step towards correcting this negative mindset.

Sam Okudzeto, Chair of the CHRI’s International Advisory Commission, on his part said disability does not mean an impediment to knowledge. He said it is an affront for parents to hide their wards away from school. He mentioned that disabled people have the right to education, employment, access to public places and participate in elections as citizens.

He said the launch of the books, which is deviod of legal jargons, will enable the beneficiaries and the public be aware of the provisions governing the privileges of disable persons.

12 year old Modeciah Nyamekye of the Cradle Grace Family Montessori School wondered why it should take Parliament over a decade to pass laws protecting disable persons in the country.

Credit: Nii Kwaku Osabutey ANNY (Staff Writer, dailyEXPRESS)

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